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There are very few words that I actively try not to use. However, ugly is one of them. It’s far too easy to say “I don’t like that house, it’s ugly!” It’s difficult to say “I don’t like that house because…” Much like beauty, ugly is in the eye of the beholder and is extremely subjective. However, there are a few objective things to address when designing your house to curb potential ugliness. Well, actually… they’re border line subjective as well.

ug-ly • [uhg-lee] • ADJECTIVE

1. very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.

2. disagreeable; unpleasant; objectionable.

3. offensive to the sight.

No two clients have the same needs or wants for their house and each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. However, a few ‘rules’ are omnipresent- materials, massing, scale, and proportion. These are means/methods available to an architect to assist in the development of their designs. Addressing them will go a long way to creating an aesthetically pleasing house. Keep in mind, these ‘rules’ are typically broken and remain successful. However, one must first know the rules in order to bend/break them successfully.

Materials should be limited to three (3) on the exterior of a house. Materials should be appropriate for their use- don’t wrap columns in vinyl siding. Not counting the foundation, no more than two (2) wall materials should be visible on the exterior of a house. This stems from simplicity and ease of construction. Use of more materials creates an aesthetic of fragmentation and no sense of overall design cohesion. This in turn leads to visual distraction. The use of fewer materials allows focus on the composition of the design and is typically an indicator of a confident architect. Employ fewer materials executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

Massing should be simple. No matter the aesthetic of a house, the massing should be composed of simple forms. This will typically translate to building shapes that are efficient and sensible. There should be a hierarchy of massing. Most houses are composed of more than one single mass. The most important, or most public part of a house, should be the most prominent mass of the house. The massing of a house should rapidly and clearly show two things- the main ‘body’ of the house and the location for people (not cars) to enter the house.

Scale refers to how one perceives the size of the house elements or spaces in relation to other elements and spaces. Both building scale and human scale need to be addressed. Building scale is how the size of building elements relate to each other. Human scale is how the building elements and spaces relate to the human body. Two differing scales can be used simultaneously, and an architect can alter ones perception by use of scale. There are no hard-fast rules for scale, but a designer must be aware of both building and human scale in order for a successful design.

Proportion refers to the relationship of one element to another in terms of quantity, size, or number. It’s the comparative relationship of differing parts to the whole. There are various proportion ‘devices’ developed over the years to aid architects and guide them in their designs… the Golden Section, Modular Man, the ‘Ken’…etc. Various proportions can be found throughout nature. It makes sense to design a house in harmony with proportions that naturally occur in the world. Proportion applies to all aspects of the design of a house. Proportion should not be used arbitrarily; simple harmonious proportions should be used throughout the design of a house.

It’s beneficial to know why you don’t like something so you don’t repeat the same thing. The next time you find yourself thinking/saying a house is ugly, rather than say it’s ugly, try and describe what it is you find displeasing about the house. It’s highly likely you can trace it to a lack of understanding of materials, massing, scale, and proportion.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Ugly.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
ugly is ugly

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Ugly

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[ugly] buildings [ugly] people

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community

I deal with homeowners in various stages of projects for their homes. I’m either dealing with a client that is constructing a new home and trying to sell their current home or one who is renovating/adding on to their existing home but thinking towards the future and re-sale value. Inevitably they always ask for advice as to projects they can do to their existing home to increase its chance of selling quickly now or in the future. Keep in mind, home buyers want to see how great a home looks; they don’t want to hear what it could look like with work. Meaning, these projects actually need to be done for them to add any value to your home. Here are my top 5 projects that pay off when selling your home- as well as refreshing the current home you live in:

1. Paint- For the cost, nothing comes close to the dramatic effect a new coat of paint or color change can have on a home’s interior or exterior. My advice, always paint the ceiling a bright white- I’m not a fan of colored ceilings as they tend to ‘compress’ the space. I’m a big fan of having an accent wall in a few spaces- one wall painted a differing color than the rest of the space. For the exterior, I recommend 3-4 colors. A color for the main body of the house, trim color, accent color for the front door (and possibly some other key pieces of the home), and possibly another color for a secondary material that is prominent on the house. Keep in mind, most of this is mute when dealing with modern homes and exterior materials that are left in their natural state. A well designed modern home can have various natural materials that can create a great composition of texture and color.

2. Flooring, Fixtures, Faucets, + Accessories- A rule of thumb, anything you actually touch should be of good quality and in working order- i.e. door knobs, cabinet pulls, toilet handles, etc. This doesn’t mean you can ignore unseen items, it just means a ‘touched’ item adds more to the perceived value of your home. Worn-out flooring surfaces are a turn off. Replace/clean/repair/refinish flooring throughout the home. Replacing old faucets, sinks, and toilets, can significantly increase the perceived overall value of the home. Cabinet pulls can have a dramatic effect on the perception of the quality of cabinetry. Consider replacing, or adding, cabinet pulls. Cheap and dated lighting fixtures should also be replaced.

3. Additions + Renovations- If you’re planning on selling in the future, but need additional space currently, be sure to plan wisely. An addition that appears ‘tacked on’ with no thought, hurts a home’s value and cheapens the overall impression of the home. Working with an architect is of great value when anticipating a major project on your home. An architect will be sure the overall ‘scale’ of the project is in harmony with the existing and not over, or underwhelming. The current ‘style’ of the home will be examined and addressed as appropriate in the new work. The ‘flow’ of spaces will be planned and laid out efficiently- may not seem like a big deal until you walk through a bedroom to get to a bedroom- yup, I’ve seen that… too often. An architect will address these and many other issues that can increase the value of your home.

4. Kitchens + Bathrooms- These rooms historically have had the best return on investment and continue so. The kitchen has long outgrown its place as merely for cooking, it’s now typically the gathering spot for families. Kitchens have become the focal point of many homes and quality materials/appliances have become the norm. However, keep your homes price range in mind and don’t overdo it with high end items that future buyers aren’t willing to pay for. When it comes to adding a bath or remodeling, be sure to include ample storage and quality (doesn’t have to equate to expensive) fixtures. Ceramic tile is still a good choice for flooring and wall surrounds in bathrooms. The addition of a bath or powder room can greatly increase the value of your home.

5. Landscaping- The exterior of your home plays an important role in the overall first impression of your home. Landscaping can have a dramatic impact on the overall look of your home. Consult with a qualified individual who can provide you with an overall plan for your yard.

Keep personal ‘style’ to a minimum. Infuse your personal style with furniture, accessories, artwork, window treatments, etc. These can easily be reworked by another, such that they can make the house their own. When selling your home this may entail removing personal items such that potential buyers can envision themselves living in the home and not feeling that the home is ‘owned’ by you.

So that’s my broad sweeping list of what’s worked for my clients over the years. What has worked for you? What other projects/advice do you have to share?

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted June 18 2013, edited/revised per date above- See what I did there… 5… Value… V… Roman Numeral 5.

It’s always a thrill when meeting a potential client for the first time. Excitement. Nerves. Possibilities. That’s how I feel as the architect. Once I’m in their house I don’t get on the sales pitch soap box. The great thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients can do vast amounts of research before calling an architect. They’ve seen my work and know what I can do. I don’t need to sell myself at this point… well, I’m always selling the virtues of an architect, it’s just covert at this point.

We start walking through the house. The clients go on and on- in a good way- talking about their project. I spend most of the time listening shaking the dog off my leg, checking out their medicine cabinets and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves. Then it happens. They turn to me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back over my shoulder (I really should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “A-ha, I’ve got it!” However, my typical response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “ No, really, what’s it going to look like?”

Sometimes it’s a bit of a let down to the client that I don’t have an initial grand vision for their project. If I did, it would be my vision and not theirs. I don’t work that way. The bad thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients want answers instantly. I explain how I approach each project by striving to define the inherent design issue(s) at hand. I need to figure out how they ‘live’ life on a daily basis and what is or isn’t currently working for them in their house. I don’t approach a project with a preconceived notion of an aesthetic- style if you wish. I strive to absorb a client’s beliefs and wishes and respond with an appropriate design. This doesn’t happen at the first meeting. Occasionally, I have them fill out a questionnaire in an attempt to further solidify their goals and wishes for the project. Then it happens. They look at me and exclaim “A-ha, so we’re going to be involved more than we thought. We have a say in what this will look like, nice. This sounds like a lot of fun!” Trust me, it’s a barrel of monkey’s kind of fun.

My initial meeting with a client involves a vast amount of listening, looking, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Good design is listening and investigating, only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately. I suspect a majority of architects would agree.

A client’s project starts as theirs, but if it’s successful it doesn’t end that way. I like the give and take between architect and client, it makes for a rewarding experience and project for both of us. The most successful projects start as a client’s project and end as our project. It never becomes my project. So take on me (see what I did there) as your architect and we’ll come up with a project that’s not yours or mine, but ours.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted April 16 2014, edited/revised per date above- Come on a-ha and a barrel of monkey’s… in one post… never done before, couldn’t have been..

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Ideally I would provide full architectural design and administration services for every project. Let’s be honest, that’s the want of every architect for every project. However, for several reasons, I realize this is not always an option, nor is it always necessary. Cost is typically a primary issue on every project, and usually the first thing to be eliminated is the professional services of an architect. However, as a client you need to be aware of options that do not eliminate the services of your architect.

The primary means of reducing the design fee is to reduce the level of service provided. However, that in turn will result in more responsibility for you and it becomes crucial (even more so) to have a competent contractor. Obviously, the greater amount of detail included in the drawings, the clearer the procedure for construction. The design drawings are vital in assuring you that your house is built the way you want it. The more detail in the drawings the more control you have over the resultant house. Anything not included in the drawings is at the discretion of the contractor. You’ll have less control over the final outcome of the house because you have given the contractor fewer instructions/information to follow.

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In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address typical levels of service available from an architect. Keep in mind not all architects are willing to work on a project where their services are limited- and there are some projects I won’t either. However, it does afford potential options to a client who is not in a position to hire an architect for full services, but does realize the value of an architect in the design of their home. Outlined below are differing Levels of design service available to you:

LEVEL 1: SCHEMATIC DESIGN DRAWINGS

This level uses an architect’s special training to problem solve, but the task of producing drawings for permitting and construction is the responsibility of others and is hired by you. This level is appropriate for simple designs. This level of service is appropriate if you want a house designed for your particular needs, but want to either draw the plans yourself or to have the builder, or a drafting service perform the drawing creation.

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These drawings are by no means enough for permitting or actual construction. The drawings indicate the design intent of your home. Prior to building, you will need to hire someone to think through how the house will be constructed, and to document those decisions in a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and building the house. This approach is appropriate if you wish to have standard finishes and details. Services typically include the following phase and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD)

Schematic Design Drawings provided. Room sizes will be indicated but not dimensioned. The Schematic Design Drawings will be formatted at a size of 11×17, hand drawn, and consist of the following:

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- at each exterior façade

 

LEVEL 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + SCHEMATIC DESIGN RESOLUTION PACKAGE

This level of service is appropriate for those seeking a house with standard construction and finishing details. Like Level 1, this level of service is recommended for simple designs, where everything is straight forward. This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 1. However, once a design is agreed upon, a Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided.

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The Schematic Design Resolution Package contains additional information to lessen the burden on someone else completing the drawings. Even though you will still need to hire someone else to complete a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and construction, major dimensions will have been determined to aid in the creation of drawings. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Schematic Design Resolution Package

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 1 , in addition, a  Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided. The Schematic Design Resolution Package will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and consist of the following:

–   Floor Plan(s)

–   Roof Plan(s)

–   Exterior Elevations- at each exterior facade

–   Two (2) Building Sections

–   One (1) Wall Section

 

LEVEL 3: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DRAWINGS

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 2. However, once a design is agreed upon, a set of Design Development Drawings is created. The Schematic Design is developed so it more precisely fits your desires and needs. Preliminary materials are indicated/selected for your house.

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The Design Development drawings illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of your house. They establish the scope, relationships, forms, size, function, and aesthetic character of the house. These documents will outline the major materials and the building systems proposed. While these drawings are still not suitable for permitting and construction, they do start indicating additional information that assists in alleviating the contractor making assumptions. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Design Development (DD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 2, in addition, Design Development Drawings will be created. The Design Development Drawings will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and typically consist of the following:

– Preliminary Architectural Site Plan in CAD (plot plan provided by Owner)

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- as needed

– Building Section(s)

– Preliminary Wall Sections and Details

– Preliminary Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only

– Preliminary Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only

– Preliminary Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Preliminary General Specification Sheet- major materials and systems and establish their quality levels

 

LEVEL 4: FULL SCOPE OF ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES  (psst… psst…this is the one you want)

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 3. However, once Design Development is complete, a set of Construction Documents is created. These drawings are also used for obtaining a building permit and for construction of your house. All of the information obtained throughout the previous phases of work are incorporated and coordinated to create a set of drawings and documents that set forth in detail requirements for the construction of your house. This also includes structural engineering of your house.

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This level of service offers you the greatest amount of specificity regarding your house, and consequently the greatest amount of control over the end ‘product.’ The resultant home will reflect who you are and how you live. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Construction Document (CD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 3 , in addition, Construction Documents consisting of Drawings and Specifications setting forth in detail the requirements for your house, including Drawings and Specifications that establish the quality levels of materials and systems required for your house, will be created. A typical Construction Document set will include:

– Cover Sheet

– General Specification Sheet(s) or Book Specifications

– Architectural Site Plan

– Foundation, Floor, and Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations

– Building Sections, Wall Sections, and Details

– Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Selection sheets indicating what fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. that you need to select.

– Structural Framing Plans and Details as required (services provided by a structural engineer)

 

CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION

This is the construction phase of your project. Basically, we are involved during this process to see that the builder is following the Construction Documents during construction. Ideally, at a minimum, visits to the site would occur at; Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, Before Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and Substantial Completion. This service is only provided if Level 4 is selected. There are far too many liabilities to be involved with the construction unless we are the author of the Construction Documents.

 

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HOURLY CONSULTING

For any other services not indicated, and for any situation where our experience in residential design and construction would be of value, we are available on an hourly basis.

Ideally you would select Level 4. However, even limiting design services, there remains inherent value in employing the services of an architect. As a future client, you need to be aware of the options available such that you can realize your dream home. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- What? Me… hire an architect?

 

Armed with this series, a residential client should feel at ease about hiring and working with an architect. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your budget, your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted January 21 2015, edited/revised per date above- Even limiting the services of an architect will bring value to your home, it won’t come with large fries or a super size drink, but it will be added value.

A succinct post with a hefty question to address- Is there a difference between a house designed by a builder and one by an architect? Rather than a long diatribe, I submit two images:

 

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What is The Best House for you? Still not sure of which is best? Tally the votes, counting visible ‘digits’ I see a 5:2 lead, hmm… Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted May 9, 2012, edited/revised per date above.

A repeated discussion every architect has with residential clients is why do they even need an architect? The client will cite that their brother in-law had a builder designed house built and it turned out fine- just like the other 7 that look like it on their street. Or their nephews’ friend once took a technical drafting class at a community college 15 years ago and she can draft something over the weekend with some software from Staples for someone to build. Or better yet, they themselves took an art class in college and love math! I compose myself and begin the discussion…

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For years I would try and explain an architect’s value with grandiose terms and concepts- an aesthetic that reflects the modernity of their beliefs, villa this, axis that, concept of nothing being everything, datum, beaux arts that, white is not always white, machine for this or that, gables, we don’t need no stinking gables, etc. Then one day while going off on one of these rants, the client offered me some cake… mmmm cake. An epiphany occurred; I could see the delicious tree from the Black Forest! From that point on I simplified the explanation of an architect’s value in terms easily understood, cake! Who doesn’t love cake?

I found it easier to compare architect designed houses to non-architect houses as tier cakes from a bakery vs. grocery store bought sheet cake. One can typically stomach a sheet cake. However, is that what you expect from your cake? The sheet cake is just there… lying… like a sheet. There may be some ‘thing’ jammed in the center of the cake that all the kids are raging about, or a gel food coloring message. If you do dare eat it, your teeth will crackle and cringe from the 1,896 grams of sugar per slab, not including the so-called frosting. You’ve seen a sheet cake before, whoo hoo, looks like every other one you’ve seen. You walk past and ignore it. Lying there in the display case of sheet cake suburbia for mass consumption. Sheet cake, no thought, just doing what was done before.

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However, a tier cake from a bakery is, well, it’s prepared for your specific tastes. You’ll meet with the baker to discuss cake flavor options, fillings, combinations, aesthetics, frostings, colors, fondants, how many stories, size, shape, etc. In short, it will be customized for you. It won’t be too small nor too big, it’ll be just right. People will take notice and sense a good cake. They may not know why, but they’ll know it’s better than a sheet cake. One bite and you’ll know it was worth it- first a blast of chocolate, than a quick cool of raspberry, a touch of coffee notes in the frosting, are those white chocolate chunks? You won’t be able to imagine the day without the cake. It’ll be just what you wanted and will even have some delightful surprises.

Hungry? Go grab yourself a slice of tier cake and enjoy. Your tier cake will be the envy of all at the party. If you eavesdrop, you may hear guests saying “Can you believe we put up with sheet cake for so long, what were we thinking?” Trust me, they’ll be taking about your cake for years to come, and it won’t be because of indigestion! So go hire yourself a baker and enjoy some tier cake- and by baker I mean architect and by tier cake I mean a house designed for YOU!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 15 2012, edited/revised per date above- If these are copyrighted cake images, send me a cake sample for proof and I’ll promptly remove the images!

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What? Me… hire an architect?” By far, the most common question I’ve heard over the years from potential residential clients. In my experience what they’re actually asking is;

“Can I really afford an architect, aren’t they expensive?”

“Can’t I just by a builder house or buy plans from a book and still end up with what I want?”

“Isn’t an architect just going to design what they want and ignore me?”

These questions weigh heavily on clients, in reality; they couldn’t be further from the truth. However, hiring the services of an architect is not for everyone. Not everyone is building a custom home or taking on a significant renovation/addition. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

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People often don’t think about the cost of a realtor or contractor. Engaging their services costs thousands of dollars. However, you realize the value that they bring to your home and I doubt you would attempt to buy/sell or build your own home without them. Architects should be viewed in the same light. We aren’t as expensive as you might think, our fees are as flexible as the type of project you have in mind. Your home is in all likelihood the most expensive investment you’ve made/will make. Wouldn’t you want to enhance your return by hiring an architect to help guide you through the design and construction process?

Hiring an architect is not something reserved for the wealthy. The majority of my work is working with ‘every-day people’ with moderate budgets- much like me. No matter the scale of the project, be it a garage addition, an in-law suite, or a new million dollar custom home, architects offer services for a variety of budgets and project types. An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing clients’ needs/ wishes/ budget/ schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient home. I help clients design/discover a home that works for them and fits their individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into an efficient cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to the client. This in turn enhances our affordability.

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You could buy a builder house or build a house from a ‘plan book’ or on-line source. Going that route will allow you to build someone’s house, it won’t be your house, but it will be a house. These houses and plans are typically designed for what the ‘masses’ want or what a market analysis determines they want. Either way, it’s not going to be a home tailored to how you live. You’ll be able to choose paint colors, flooring options, fireplace surround, etc. For the most part you’ll be locked-in to a floor plan that appeals to mass buyers. If that’s all you want in a home, than this may appeal to you. However, the best option is a home designed specifically for you. This home will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. I like to equate it as a builder/’plan book’ home fits you like a mitten while an architect designed home fits like a glove.

blog_29_02When it comes to designing your house, an architect will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow this series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ We will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you. Working with an architect will allow you to make well informed decisions. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle.

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Armed with this series, a potential residential client should feel a bit more at ease about hiring and working with an architect. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email.

The previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

So the next time you find yourself asking “What? Me… hire an architect?” Be sure to answer with a resounding YES!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted September 17, 2013, edited/revised per date above.

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I’ve been involved with client based single family residential design for over twenty years. I’ve worked on single room additions, five million dollar+ custom houses, and everything in-between. Each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. No two clients have the same set of circumstances or needs/wants for their house. However, one issue is always prevalent- value. Usually value is associated with a monetary amount, but that’s not always true. Clients talk about wanting to add, increase, and maintain value… but typically they’re not sure what value they’re talking about or how it applies to their house.

So how does one address value in a house? It’s actually pretty simple; value in a house comes down to common sense and avoiding excess frill. Value comes from things that make sense and enhance ones comfort and enjoyment of living in a house. A valuable house should employ as many of the following as possible:

1. Location/ Orientation house should be located within a reasonable proximity to the client’s daily needs. Ideally, the house should be in a mixed-use community that offers various amenities with-in walking distance- the less dependent on a vehicle the better for the environs and one’s health. A house should be orientated to take advantage of the sun, prevailing winds, and site specific features. In addition, the house interior should have a connection to the outdoors, both visually and physically.

2. Sustainable house should take advantage of both passive and active sustainable building practices. There are numerous exterior and interior strategies/ methods that can be employed to reduce a house’s impact on the environment. However, the best thing is to construct only the spaces necessary.

3. Floor Plan should meet your needs and how you live. Do not design for what you are told is needed to re-sell the home or include whatever the latest trend is, i.e. “man cave/ diva den.” You don’t want rooms that you never use- not only will you have to furnish them but you will also have to heat and cool them- those monies are better spent elsewhere. Efficiency can be achieved by the minimization of the plan and simple building volumes.

4. Rooms/ Spaces all rooms and spaces should have ample daylight, sufficient applicable storage, and logically accommodate the intended furniture. Dedicated hallways and circulation spaces should be kept to a minimum. (entries to the house should be ‘spaces’ not just doors)

5. Kitchens + Bathrooms should be well organized, have efficient layouts, and provide ample storage- all of which can be achieved in a compact or moderately sized space.

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6. Mudroom minimum should include a washable floor, floor drain, and utility sink with a hose attachment. Ideally each occupant of the house would have their own cubby/locker for storage. The mudroom should be located wherever the family foot traffic passes on a daily basis. (it’s usually not the front door)

7. Garage cars are a reality that is not going away any time soon. However, a garage should not be the dominate element on a house. Ideally the garage should be set-back from the main elevation, or even better, if the site allows, the garage should be located on the side/rear and/or underneath of a house.

8. Roof complicated gables, hips, gambrels, etc. can be very distracting to the overall design of a home- they’re even more difficult to flash, vent, and properly waterproof. A roof should be simple in design and shed water.

9. Materials use low-maintenance long lasting materials.

10. Quality should take precedence over quantity. This applies to the entire house- overall size, rooms/ spaces, finishes, etc. Employ fewer elements executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

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The most valuable houses are the ones located in mixed-use walkable communities. Ideally the house is close to the owner’s daily needs. Houses that rely on an efficiency of space and are well designed with simple forms and details. Houses designed to meet the needs of the owners, minimize the life-cycle costs of operating and maintaining the house. A house designed for who you are and how you live – these are characteristics of a valuable house.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted September 24, 2013, edited/revised per date above.

What is the best house? Is it a mid-century modern? Perhaps it’s a contemporary? Is it a Georgian Revival? Is it a Craftsman Bungalow? Is it a 100 year old renovated farmhouse? Or is it something else? Yes… it’s all of these; the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! However, without an architect, achieving the best house for you is challenging.

Most likely you’ve lived your entire life in one sort or another of a house. Typically we take our houses for granted and do not appreciate just how many decisions have to be made prior to constructing a new house, or renovating/adding to an existing house. At some point, someone had to think through the entire design and construction process- address needs, wishes, budget, schedule, and comply with local building and zoning codes- all while ensuring that the resultant house was structurally sound, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing. The best ‘someone’ for the task is an architect. Architects are educated to help you define your needs, present options you may not have considered, prepare documents that instruct how your house is to be built, and assist you in the myriad of decisions inherent in the design/construction process… all while making it fun!

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Your house may be the most expensive project you will ever undertake. If you are making such an investment, and you want your house to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is a must. An architect will help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. This house, your house, will be vastly different than one designed for someone else. Your house will fit you, and your family, like a glove. An architect will assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality.

We architects take the opportunity to work with you on such an important aspect of your life very seriously. One of the most enjoyable aspects of our work is that we are hired to create wonderful places for daily living. It is a very rewarding experience for both architect and client. What is the best house? Easy, the best house is the house that works for you and your lifestyle! How to achieve the best house- well that’s a bit more challenging and should involve an architect.

What is the best house for you? Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted October 14, 2013, edited/revised per date above… and by ‘architect’ I mean talk to me 😉

Part 3 of our ‘Hiring an Architect’ series provides questions you as a client should ask the architect you’re interviewing for your project. The previous posts discussed how to go about finding and Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search and questions you as a client should ask yourself prior to meeting with an architect, Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself. If you’ve been reading along you may be thinking, “Wow, even more things to consider?” Yes, yes there are. However, this is why you’re hiring an architect. Your architect is there to guide you through the process and make, and help you make, the myriad of decisions that factor into creating a house you want, one that fits you and your needs.

blog_29_02After discussing your questions/ answers from Part 2 with the architect, it’s now your turn to ask questions of the architect. To get you started, below are some questions to ask. While not meant as all-encompassing, they do serve well to get your discussions started. Feel free to add your own as you see fit:

1. What are the primary issues or challenges in our project?

2. How will the architect decide what we need?

3. Do you have experience with projects similar to ours?

4. What is the architects’ design beliefs/philosophy?

5. Can the architect take on our project with their current workload?

6. How will the architect explain the process as the project proceeds- virtual models, physical models, sketches, drawings, etc.

7. Who will be our point of contact at the architect’s office? Will they also be designing our project? If not, who will be designing our project? Will there be at least one architect involved throughout the entirety of our project- you want the answer to be ‘Yes’

8. How is the design process organized? The typical design/construction process is as follows:

a. Programmingdeciding what to build

b. Schematic Designinitial sketches and ideas

c. Design Development refining the design

d. Construction Documentsfinalizing the working documents

e. Construction Administrationconstruction phase of your project

9. How will you establish the fees for our project?

a. Percentage of construction cost

b. Hourly fee

c. Fixed fee

d. Hybrid of hourly and fixed fee

10. What do the architect’s fees cover? What would constitute additional fees and how would those be justified?

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11. What is the architects experience with construction cost estimating?

12. Will a preliminary budget be provided by a contractor?

13. If the initial design is over budget, what will the architect do to rectify?

14. Do you have a consultant to provide the structural engineering? Is that included in your fees?

15. If we wish the services of an interior designer, do you employ an interior designer or can you recommend and coordinate with one?

16. Will the architect assist with contractor selection?

17. Do you recommend bidding the project or negotiating a fee?

18. What is the anticipated design/documentation schedule?

19. What is the expected construction schedule?

20. What is your involvement during construction? You want the architect involved, for additional information read Construction Administration.

21. At what points in the process will we meet and discuss/ provide feedback?

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With these questions answered, you should start to get a better sense of whether or not the architect is a good fit for you and your project. It is important to note that the construction process is inherently complicated. There will almost always be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of you and your architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on your level of stress throughout. You need to trust your architect. You need to be comfortable in talking with them. You do need to like your architect. You need to have confidence in their integrity and skill set as an architect.

What questions have you asked as a client? As an architect, what has been asked of you?

Go find yourself an architect, it will be worth it!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted August 22, 2013, edited/revised per date above… You can always just contact me, I’ve all the answers 😉